Our Beloved Kin: Remapping A New History of King Philip's War

The Journey to Nashaway/Wachusett

Stebbins' Split

When Ashpelon's party reached Ktsi Mskodak, or Great Meadow, Ashpelon sent a group of about half of his people down “to Nashaway, to call of some Indians that have bin there all this tyme of ye war & took this Benoni Stebbins along with them thither.”[1] Benoni Stebbins, who was captured along with Stockwell in Ashpelon's raid on Deerfield, served as a principal source in reconstructing these events. The goal of the party he traveled with was to go into Nashaway territory and meet with the people living in the area. The pale yellow line on the map traces the route that Stebbins reports the party having taken as far south as Squakeag and then follows their likely course southeast into the Nashaway region.

Stebbins’ accounts, recounted second-hand by the postmaster of Northampton and John Pynchon, [2] play an important role in piecing together the course of the second split. Soon after arriving in Hadley, Stebbins dictated a brief version of his account to the Postmaster in nearby Northampton. In the two documents he referred to their destination as either “Wachuset hills” or “Nashaway ponds.” On both maps, one can see that Nashaway is the name of a larger Native territory. Looking at the smaller map, one can see that it is also the name of a specific location. Nashaway ponds would refer more specifically to Weshaukim, another location indicated on the map. “Wotchuset hills” refers to the area at and around Mount Wachusett. All of these specific locations are within the larger Native territory Nashaway.

Stebbins escaped from Nashaway around October 2 while he was with the group that Ashpelon sent to rendezvous. The group generally retraced their steps until they reached Squakeag, as Stebbins reported. They then had many options as to how they could proceed to their destination. On the above map, we have an example of a path they may have taken. He was sent with them as a captive, and “being sent with 2 squas and a mare to fetch some hucleberies a litle way from the company...he got upon the mare and rid till he tired the mare...& so escaped to Hadly, being 2 days & ½ with out victuals.”[3] The red arrow on the map indicates the general course of his escape and return to colonized space.

A Councilor

While with the party sent by Ashpelon to rendezvous in the Nashaway territory, Benoni Stebbins spoke of

one of ye Indians that they had from about Nashaway Ponds, semes to be a counsellor, & with him they consulted much & spake of sending to ye English, but a last resolved for Canada yet talked of making a forte a greate way up the River & abiding there this winter.[4]

If Wanalancet did travel to Nashaway from Wamesit, he may have been this “counsellor.” Given Wanalancet's influence, he would have stood out, perhaps even among a group of other sachems. This part of the account lines up with other details about Wanalancet. In 1675, as the violence at the start of King Philip’s War, or the first Anglo-Abenaki war, caused fear and anti-Native sentiment to grow, Wanalancet maintained his stance of neutrality and went so far as to remove with his people to the woods around Penacook. Massachusetts Bay colony officials sent messengers to try and convince him to return to Wamesit (Patucket) “but he could not be prevailed with to return, but travelled up into the woods further afterward, and kept about the head of Connecticut river all winter, where was a place of good hunting.” [5] Protected from colonial incursion and at a place where one could hunt to subsist, the Kwinitekw headwaters (note location on map to the right) were a haven to Wanalancet and his people.  With relations between the Native peoples of the valley and the Massachusetts Bay colony still tense, is it difficult to imagine that Wanalancet would suggest a return to the headwaters as a course of action for their group?

Each of the purple lines on the map at the top represents a well-established trail that would have been available to a Native party heading to Ktsi Mskodak from Wamesit. Together, they form a network that would allow for confident travel across the vast distances shown on the maps. Naturally, they could very well have taken the same route back that Ashpelon's rendezvous party took to get to Nashaway; however, it seems likely that they would have taken a route that didn't bring them closer to colonial occupied space.

By the Numbers

Stockwell went on to report in his narrative that “when those Indians came from Wachusett, there came with them squaws and children, about four score.”[6] This large number begins to make sense when we consider the number of people reported to be living at Wamesit alone, which would be 42, or just over two score. By Gookin's accounting, “those that went away [with Wanalancet] were about fifty, whereof there were not above eight men, the rest women and children.”[7] This means that the people at Wamesit alone numbered around 50.

Upon his return, Stebbins reported that he had seen “3 Indian men & about halfe a score of [women]” at Nashaway. He also spoke of picking up Native people who had been living in the Nashaway region during the war. He specifically mentioned that there were “2 smal compeny of Indians that had lived there al this war time.”[8] But, Stebbins did leave before the group returned to Ktsi Mskodak. Is it possible that he simply hadn’t been there when the entire group was assembled to return? Were the 13 people Stebbins reported seeing part of just one of the companies? If so, that would bring the total to 52 people, only accounting for women and children--63 if one accounts for everyone at Wamesit and the 13 present at the time. Is it then difficult to imagine this group as the one Stockwell reports as coming in with about 80 women and children?


These were survivors of the war. The Penacooks are a good example of the means Native people employed to survive. While they may not always have been of one mind on how to generally interact with the English, they did what was necessary to survive. It is likely that some of the people who reportedly stayed in the region “al this war time” had gone back and forth between their homeland and places like Penacook and the Connecticut River Valley--and perhaps as far as Schaghticoke and French Canada. On just this one journey, over 100 people moved northwards to continue living. The people of the area that would become New England didn’t vanish, nor was “the enemy” completely destroyed. Displaced by violence and discriminated against by their former neighbors, many moved northward. After this period, many continued to travel regularly between Canada, Wabanaki territory and southern New England
[1] “Letter from Major John Pynchon,” 53.
[2] “Narrative of Benoni Stebbins,” 57; “Letter from Major John Pynchon,” 51-6.
[3] “Narrative of Benoni Stebbins,” 57.
[4] “Letter from Major John Pynchon,” 54.
[5] Gookin, “Christian Indians,” 462-3.
[6] Evan Haefeli and Kevin Sweeney, Captors and Captives: The 1704 French and Indian Raid on Deerfield (Amherst: University of Massachusetts, 2003), 42.
[7] Gookin, “Christian Indians,” 521.
[8] “Letter from Major John Pynchon,” 54, 57.

This page has paths:

This page references: